Vestibular signal processing by separate sets of neuronal filters

J Vestib Res. 2011;21(1):5-19. doi: 10.3233/VES-2011-0396.


Second-order vestibular neurons (2°VN) are the central element for the transformation of body motion-related sensory signals into extraocular motor commands for retinal image stabilization during locomotion. The wide range of motion dynamics necessitates sensory signal transformation in parallel, frequency-tuned channels. Accordingly, in various vertebrates, 2°VN have been shown to form differently tuned functional subgroups. In frog, these neurons subdivide into two separate populations with distinctly different intrinsic membrane properties, discharge dynamics and synaptic response characteristics. Frog tonic 2°VN exhibit low-pass filter characteristics and membrane properties that cause amplification of synaptic inputs, whereas phasic 2°VN form band-pass filters that allow frequency-dependent shunting of repetitive inputs. The differential, yet complementary membrane properties render tonic 2°VN particularly suitable for synaptic integration and phasic 2°VN for differentiation and event detection. Differential insertion of the two cell types into local circuits reinforces the functional consequences of the intrinsic membrane properties, respectively. As a consequence, the synergy of cellular and network properties creates sets of neuronal elements with particular filter characteristics that form flexible, frequency-tuned components for optimal transformation of all dynamic aspects of body motion-related multisensory signals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Ranidae
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Vestibular Nerve / physiology
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiology*